Sunday, May 24, 2015

Half Corked - Again

For the second year running, Mr. Cool and I have donned our grass skirts, Hawaiian shirts and Nikes to take part in the Half-Corked Half Marathon. Along with a thousand other wine-loving crazies, we arrived at the Hester Creek start line ready for a glorious day of taking in the Golden Mile and Black Sage Bench for what is definitely one of the most celebrated runs in Canada.

We were lucky to be positioned in the first wave of runners because the day was already heating up by the 8 a.m. start time and it was promising to be a hot one. We arrived just in time to act as witnesses for a wedding of two participants. The vows were timed to finish just before the starting gun. So, naturally, there was a toast to the happy couple as we all readied to start them off on their honeymoon.

Nothing like a few first sips of wine before starting a half marathon. It's definitely part of a proven training regime when it comes to this race.

The course winds its way through the southern half of the Okanagan Valley, traversing up and down the rolling terrain (or is that "terroir" given this is wine country?), through grapevines and along service roads. Although incredibly scenic, it's quite the taxing course. No one sets out to run a personal best on this race. Indeed, it quickly became evident that grapes grow best on slopes - a fact that we can all attest to now.

Of course, one of the most appealing aspects of the run is that water stops are regularly scheduled every one or two kilometres as the course passes through or by another winery. And, funny, but for some reason those water stops all featured wine tastings and occasional bites of artisanal foods.

A few highlights of the fifteen water wine stations were Sandra Oldfield and Tinhorn Creek's Sangria party tent, Rustico's western themed BBQ (not that I ate the baked beans as a courtesy to the other runners) and, my personal fave, Stoneboat where they'd MacGyver'ed part of a crusher/de-stemmer to provide a chillingly refreshing shower and offered an icy granita of their Piano bubbly. Admittedly, I added three or four of the granitas to my pineapple water bottle for the next part of the course. Even watered down, it was just so perfect for the occasion.

Unfortunately, I starting having a problem with my left knee shortly after the race began. So, poor Cool, he had to deal with my intermittent run/walk means of tackling the race. Even after the medical tent at Silver Sage tried to jerry-rig a tape job on my knee, it was slow going at best. Cool could easily have finished the race a whole lot sooner than we did but he was good enough to stick it out with me, all the time offering encouragement like, "alright now, I figure that, if we jog it out for a couple hundred metres, there's bound to be another wine stop just around the corner."

It might have been a sad finish to the race but, lo and behold, there was a festival tasting at the end - featuring all the Oliver-Osoyoos Wine Association members that weren't encountered directly on the Half-Corked route. By then, my knee was in pretty bad shape; so, we didn't stick around too long at the race festival - just long enough to watch some Flintstones, I Dream of Jeanie gals and sock puppet monkeys join us at the finish line. As sacrilegious as it might seem, I chose an afternoon nap and a heavy dose of ibuprofen over continued wine tasting.

As soon as the nap was over, we got back to real reason for this Odyssey and added another bottle to The List.

1924.  2012 Intersection Mile's Edge White (Okanagan Valley VQA)

I first ran across Intersection and its intriguing wines at the Vancouver International Wine Festival and The Grape Debate back in the spring. The winery is a relatively new entrant to the BC wine scene - although its principal, Bruce Schmidt, is a definite veteran. As early as the late-1970's, he was a marketing executive with Calona Wines and local writer, John Schreiner, reports that Schmidt is famously known for making Calona's Schloss Laderheim Canada's largest-selling white wine of its time. Schmidt spent the better part of the '80's, 90's and 00's working in other fields but he returned to the Okanagan in 2005 when he purchased an old orchard property and packing house.

Schmidt and team worked on converting the orchard to a vineyard and the packing house into a winery and they started releasing wines in 2010. Unfortunately, the 2008 and 2009 winters were so severe that they lost almost half the vines they'd planted.  After only being able to release a couple hundred cases of wine in those initial years, they finally reached their full production goal of 2500 cases in 2012.

Having been impressed with their offerings at the earlier tastings, Boo, Mr. Cool, Mimster and I stopped in to do a tasting yesterday and we grabbed this bottle as a weekend treat. An unusual blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Viognier, Mile's Edge White was a great afternoon sip on our deck overlooking Lake Osoyoos. Body. Aromatics. Fruit. Acidity. It might not have healed my sore knee but at least it helped dull the pain.

Following our Intersection interlude, we made our way to Tinhorn Creek and Miradoro restaurant. The winery was hosting one of its annual Canadian Concert Series nights and Rich Hope & His Blue Rich Raiders were playing away to a lively crowd in the amphitheatre below. I don't think too many of the revellers had taken part in the Half-Corked. Catchy music or not, there was no chance that I'd be dancing the night away.

2013 Tinhorn Creek Rosé (Okanagan Valley VQA)

I wasn't sure whether it was the 2012 or 2013 vintage that we'd enjoyed recently. Turns out that it was the 2013; so, I don't get to add this vintage a second time to The List. No matter. As the last vintage of Rosé where Sandra Oldfield was at the winemaking helm, it was a welcome addition to the table. It matches with all assortment of dishes and just goes down so darn easy. A welcome thing with this gang.

1925.  2012 Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc (Okanagan Valley VQA)

I couldn't have a dinner in wine country, on such an auspicious day as the Half-Corked, without adding a new bottle of Tinhorn Creek to The List though. So, a second bottle just happened to get ordered. Sandra pioneered the planting of Cab Franc in the Okanagan and her perseverance is now paying off as the variety is seen as being well-suited for the region. Instead of all the Cab Franc forming part of Okanagan Meritage blends, more and more varietal Franc wines are showing up on winery lists and they're deservedly proving to be popular pours.

This is a big, dark-fruited version, well-suited for our richer main courses and for our simple sitting back and enjoyment of the concert.

With luck, the knee will recover quickly and I can think about coming back for next year's Half-Corked. After two years of knee issues, I could use a bit of "third time lucky" coming my way.

For some strange reason, Mr. Cool is all ready to suit up again. Maybe it's the wine.

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Half Corked Pasta Party

For the second year running, and that's literally "running", Mr. Cool and I have decided to lace up our runners for the Half Corked Marathon. My long distance running days may be 20 years and 30 fewer pounds ago and a half marathon may no longer be a run in the park for me, but the allure of running through gorgeous Okanagan vineyards and countryside is tough to say "no" to.

Especially when it's one of the hardest entry bibs in BC to nab.

Add to that, the fact that a healthy proportion of the runners are in costume and there are more than a dozen water, er wine, stations along the route, it's a no-brainer.

After the incredible popularity of the first couple of years - when all the spots were selling out in mere minutes - applications to run are now determined by lottery. I don't know the actual numbers but I've heard (from reputable sources, of course) that the odds are only 1-in-10 that a person will get in. When Mr. Cool and I finally wrangled our entry bibs, we were pretty stoked.

Since the run takes place through the Golden Mile and Black Sage Bench regions between Oliver and Osoyoos, Mr. Cool, the Mimster, Boo and I made the drive up from Vancouver and spent a long weekend there. It's become a tradition of the Half Corked Half to hold a pasta carbo-load - AND WINE TASTING - on the night before the race and we cottoned right on to that.

1923.  2014 Church & State Lost Inhibitions White (Okanagan Valley VQA)

Church & State hosted the Primavera dinner at their winery and they greeted us, upon our arrival, with a glass of their Lost Inhibitions White. As such, even though we tasted a great many wines from the various members of the Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association, it seems appropriate to add a bottle of Lost Inhibitions to The List.

Lost Inhibitions is a new brand that Church & State has launched this year as it wanted a wine with bigger production numbers and, if nothing else, its array of labels caused a great stir amongst the local wine-buying public - especially since the wines were launched on April Fool's Day. Even though there are only a white blend and a red blend produced under the brand, the winery has started out with 96 different "Lost Inhibitions" labels. The labels are divided into two categories - Prude and Lewd. The Prude labels may be a little more "G-rated" as they were all run by the government liquor board to make sure that they could be stocked but with catchy phrases such as "Shut The Front Door," "You Little Minx" and "Carpe Diem Bitches," they'll still grab your attention.

The Lewd category of labels include such beauties as "You Bet Your Ass I Will," "Hash-Tag This Mother F#cker" and "Polite as Fu*k" and they're expected to be available at the winery itself and in private wine shops that might not be so concerned about consumer reactions. I have to admit that I bought a couple of them on the spot to give away as gifts.

Luckily, the wine in the bottle is tasty enough to get you to reach for another bottle - and perhaps a different label. The white is real "kitchen sink" blend of grape varieties - about one-half of the blend is an equal mix of Gewürztraminer, Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay, another third is Viognier and the balance is made up of Riesling, Orange Muscat and Roussanne. Not exactly a break-down you'll see on many labels or winery websites. I see, however, that a number of Okanagan wineries make unorthodox, mixed-bag blends like this on a fairly regular basis and, surprisingly or not, I tend to find that the resulting wines are often tastier than the same wineries' varietal white wines. I know Church & State more for its reds than its whites; so, I can't really comment on a comparison to the winery's whites but I think, regardless, that they might have hit on a winner with these Lost Inhibitions.

Neither Mr. Cool, nor I, could let loose with our inhibitions too much this night though. We did have our big run coming up in the morning and, tasty wine or not, that called for an early night of it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Terravista Fandango

Senka Tennant is one of a number of pioneers in bringing about a reputation for sophisticated wines in the Okanagan. When she (along with her husband, Bob, and a couple of business partners) worked on the launching of Black Hills Winery in 1999, she was responsible for the introduction of one of the region's most iconic wines: Nota Bene, the Bordeaux blend that quickly attained cult status and ingrained Senka's name into the minds of BC wine drinkers.

As anyone familiar with BC wines knows, Senka and Bob sold Black Hills to a investment consortium in 2007 and the Tennants took a bit of a breather.

That breather didn't last long, however, the couple purchased new property on the Naramata Bench in 2008. They also decided to blaze a trail with their new project, Terravista, when they were the first in Canada to commercially plant and harvest Albariño and Verdejo - two grapes that are associated more with the northwest of Spain and Portugal than the northern climes of the Naramata Bench.

1922.  2012 Terravista Fandango (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)

Senka's penchant for blends was also seen in another of Black Hills' better known wines, Alibi - a white Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The Tennants may not have continued making Bordeaux-styled wines but they have carried on in the direction of blends. They are currently only producing white wines - a Rhône-style blend called Figaro and tonight's bottle, Fandango, a blend of the Albariño and Verdejo grown on their new property. They don't make a lot of either wine either. Local wine writer, John Schreiner, has reported that Senka found the whole expansion and growth of Black Hills to be a bit overwhelming and that she and Bob intend to keep production at Terravista around a 2000 case maximum.

The 2012 is the second bottling of Fandango and it would appear that it can stand up to a bit of ageing because, after a couple of years in the bottle, this is still a fresh and vibrant - not to mention tasty - glass of wine. I'm no expert on either of the two grapes making up this wine, but I'd love to do a comparison tasting of the Terravista and a Spanish and/or Portuguese version.

As of the 2012 vintage, Fandango still couldn't qualify for VQA status - despite its pedigree and the quality of the product. To my knowledge, that still hasn't changed. Neither Albariño, nor Verdejo have been recognized by the provincial wine powers as approved varieties. Until that happens, Fandango will simply have to rely on the fact that its fans know its value - even if it doesn't have an executive stamp of approval.

I'm just glad to see Senka and Bob back in the wine business.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Pinot Found in the Pantry

1921.  2007 Crowley Entre Nous Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley - Oregon)

Tyson Crowley is a New York transplant who relocated to Oregon in 1995 and started working in local wineries - such as Erath and Cameron - and a little farther afield with a vintage in New Zealand. While working as assistant winemaker at Cameron, Crowley made his own first four barrels of Pinot Noir in 2005. The next year, he made six barrels and, in 2007, he decided to branch out on his own after 12 years of learning and working with others. This 2007 vintage is, therefore, his third bottling but his first after setting up his own shop.

Crowley is still a small producer. Even today, the winery only produces about 2500 cases and, to be honest, I don't recall where I picked up this bottle.

This is one of those bottles in our cellar that have just been there for awhile. Seeing as how I don't tend to buy American wines up in Canada (as our taxes - and sometimes our dollar - can make the prices seem prohibitive), my guess is that I picked it up during a short vacation in New York, Seattle or North Carolina. Funny, but a visit to the local wine shops is pretty much a given part of any vacation I'm on. Once there, I generally ask one of the shopkeepers for some suggestions since I don't tend to know any of the wines available.

Not that the bottle's provenance matters at this time, the bottle has a bit of age on it now and, as far as I can tell from other posts and articles online, the '07 Oregon vintage is now drinking better for that additional aging. The vintage was apparently a tougher one and the wines - Pinot Noir in particular - started off rather uninteresting but have been growing in depth over time.

Crowley has a good reputation as being a producer of value wines and that is likely the reason for my taking a recommendation from one of those vacation wineshops. It may still be the vintage but I found the wine to be fairly Old World in its presentation. There was still some New World fruit - particularly cherry notes - but the wine was pretty earthy with a spicy kick on the finish. I'm no expert on Willamette Pinot but I tend to associate a bit more fruit with the limited number of Oregon wines that I've knocked back.

Good thing that profile goes right along with pork sausage and garlic potatoes.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Spot Prawns on the Barbee

There is no doubt that Spot Prawn season is one of my favourite times in Vancouver. Maybe it's because I can throw some "shrimp" on the barbee and tap into my inner-Aussie. In any event, this year's season is upon us and I grabbed my first couple pounds. Turns out that it doesn't take much to convince Elzee that prawns and wine is fine way to spend the evening either - even if she has to put up with Boo and I in order to collect.

1919.  2010 Blue Mountain Brut Rosé (Okanagan Valley)

A favourite entrée - and a favourite drinking buddy - cries out for a favourite tipple as well. Any Blue Mountain bubbly is worth the price of admission but I've always had a special jones for the Brut Rosé - and not just because I could never seem to get my hands on any for the longest time. Blue Mountain has long been one of the pioneers on the BC wine scene and, along with Stellars Jay, they set the bar for the introduction of true bubblies in the region. But since so many of the country's trade and wine writers review this wine, I'll just leave it to them and add the link to Blue Mountain's webpage where they've compiled a few of them.

I would appear that I'm not the only one who enjoys this Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wine made in the traditional Champenoise way.

We'd finished the Rosé long before the shrimp was ready to come off the barbee - despite the fact that it only takes a minute or so to grill these babies. One thing you definitely don't want to do with the succulently sweet spot prawns is overcook them. Or over-season them. A touch of olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper and they're good - or should I say "great" - to go.

The spot prawn season may not be long enough for me to enjoy an endless supply into the summer but I have a feeling that there's going to be a whole lot of Rosé in the months to come - whether it's bubbly or not.

1920.  2013 Tinhorn Creek - 2 Bench Oldfield Series Rosé (Okanagan Valley VQA)

Indeed, we just carried on with a still Rosé and Sandra Oldfield - and the team at Tinhorn Creek's - Rosé is a mighty fine sip to carry on with. This 2013 is the last vintage where Sandra was in full control of the winemaking at Tinhorn. She's since passed those duties on to Andrew Windsor and decided to concentrate on her obligations as President and CEO for the winery. This beauty, however, made from 100% Cab Franc, is a fine "last" effort.

The freshness of the wine paired brilliantly with the spot prawns. There was enough body and red fruit on the palate that it highlighted the sweetness of the prawns and the touch of spice on the finish simply added to the dish.

Spot Prawns, al fresco dining, a wonderful friend and lovely wines. In my book, it doesn't get much better than this. I'll definitely look forward to trying this again with the 2014 vintage.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Staged Farewell

I may have just finished off a Wild & Wacky Wine Week, but I'm not opening tonight's bottle to carry on with that theme. Moscato is anything but wacky. It may well be wild - but that's only as in "wildly" popular.

I'd wanted to bring along a Prosecco for the evening because it was going to be a send-off for one of our neighbours. G-Dub was having everyone over for a last tipple in their place as the house was now all staged for sale and G-Dub was taking off to join up with Sam and the girls in California. The two of them could always be counted on for finding and bringing the newest and latest Prosecco to any of our gatherings in the hood. It seemed appropriate to bring one to their last hurrah...

...Except that it was a last minute event and I didn't have any Prosecco lying around that could make it to The List. Despite the growing popularity of the Italian bubbly, finding new Prosecco's to add to The List can be a tad difficult because the majority of the bottles found in our market are non-vintage and one of my little "rules" for the blog is that I can't add the same vintage of the same wine twice. I figured a Moscato d'Asti could fill in as a close alternative.

1918.  2012 Fontanafredda Le Fronde - Moscato d'Asti (Moscato d'Asti DOCG - Italy)

Don't be deceived by the accompanying photo. This isn't an "orange" wine. Rather, I brought along a bottle of Aperol to make Spritzers - thinking that the Moscato would be semi-dry and maybe even have a bit of bubble to it. As such, it would fill in nicely for a Prosecco. That wasn't the case. The wine was fully dry and didn't really remind me of a fruity Moscato at all but it still worked fine with the Aperol.

For those taking a closer look at the photo, yes, those are olives in the glass. Olives. Wine. If you're wondering if I'm crazy, I wondered the same thing the first time we were served a Spritzer from a bona fide bonne vivante from Venice. Some time back, at another neighbourhood gathering, La Vénitienne brought along the making for Spritzers and she introduced us to the buttery smooth, green olives that she used to garnish the drinks. I take her at her word and I now do the same. I don't really know if she was stringing me a line or not but I could care less because I do love my olives.

I know Boo and I are going to be sad to lose G-Dub and Sam as neighbours but, if we have to look for a silver lining, they did move to San Francisco and we have an open invite to come down and take in a bit of the wine culture down there.

I told them I'd bring the olives.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Big Finish For a Wild & Wacky Week

It would seem that this bottle will our last stop on this Wild & Wacky Wine Week that I had going. It's been quite the ride with introductions to Jacquère, Grechetto, Drupeggio, Malvasia Bianco, Verdello, Mavrud, Teroldego, Callet and Manto Negro but they say "all good things must come to an end" and tonight's grapes will likely be the last stop on this train for awhile.

And where else would you stop to find some offbeat and intriguing grapes but Portugal? With over 250 different indigenous varieties in its vast array of grapes, Portugal is a helluva place to start if you're looking to join the Wine Century Club.

1917.  2011 Niepoort Diálogo - Douro Branco Snow (Portugal)

When I picked up this bottle, I hadn't realized what a find it was on the new grape front. Notes for the wine, however, says that grape varieties used in making the Branco Snow include Rabigato, Côdega do Larinho, Gouveio, Dona Branca, Viosinho, Bical and others. That bodes well for a hefty score on the Wine Century Club tally as I try to complete my second century of grapes. The only thing with some of these more indigenous varieties is that they're often found by more than one name. So, it takes a bit of workout to make my way through Jancis Robinson, et al's, encyclopedic Wine Grapes and check all the various names against my own list.

I'm tickled to say that I get to add another five new varieties. Out of the six grapes listed, I had previously sipped on and added Gouveio under another of its names, Godello. In my books, five for six isn't so bad though.

There wasn't much to find on the five new grapes but Jancis and friends pointed out a few facts that I've latched on to:

• Rabigato - almost exclusively found in the Douro in northern Portugal and is rarely used to make a varietal wine.  Rabigato is favoured for blending particularly because of propensity for high acid levels.

• Côdega do Larinho - primarily noted for intense aromas of tropical fruit but, opposite to the Rabigato, can be rather low in acidity.

• Dona Branca - or "White Lady" in Portuguese - has, confusingly, been used for a number of distinct varieties in Portugal but there is a genetically distinct grape grown under this name in the northern part of the country where it produces "soft, fruity wines without any great distinction."

• Viosinho - is a relatively rare variety. It is also found almost exclusively in the Douro region; however, unlike some of the other grapes mentioned, Viosinho is well thought of as a quality grape that has good potential for quality wines - even so far as to having been referred to as the Portuguese Sauvignon Blanc. The biggest issues limiting that undeveloped potential is that it the grape is known for low yields and for being susceptible to oxidation.

• Bical - is found perhaps a bit more extensively in Portugal as it is recognized in a number of appellations and is known mostly as an aromatic, early-ripening grape.

Being a blend, I can't really comment on the individuality of the different grapes employed. I don't even know if the characteristics of one grape stood out more than another's, but I presume this should be a case of the whole tasting better than any of the component parts. The winery has prepared a great little tech sheet on the wine and it points out that 25% of the wine sees some aging in French oak and that all of the wine - whether aged in oak or stainless steel - has contact with fine lees (or spent yeast cells). I'm inclined to associate oak and lees to fullness in body and to some longevity in the wine's life but I think this one is better drunk when fresh. We just opened the 2011 vintage - and I see that it's still the current vintage in our government stores - but I wouldn't say that I found much in the way of fruit or acidity on the palate.

On the flip-side, the winery tasting notes talk of a "very long and salty aftertaste." I didn't notice that either but I think I'm just as glad to have missed the salt.

Diálogo sports a whimsical label that, according to an article of Jancis Robinson, is different in every country to which the wine is exported. That's got to take some dedication by the marketing department.

I see that Niepoort produces a red Diálogo as well.  I may need to source some out should I find myself in the throws of another Wild & Wacky Wine Week. In the mean time though, Wine Grapes goes back on the shelf. I celebrate five new grapes for the Wine Century Club (taking me to 193) and I get to put some thought into the final 80 some odd wines I need to reach #2001.

A Bulgarian "Amarone"

Next stop on this Wild & Wacky Wine Week: Eastern Europe and an indigenous grape being vinified in not-so-local way.

1916.  2011 Zagreus - Vinica (Bulgaria)

There definitely isn't much in the way of Bulgarian wine in the Vancouver market. So, this was a very intriguing find when I ran across Vinica at one of the local, government wineshops. Just the premise of this wine was enough to get me to throw down some cash. I did, however, have to hit the net to find out anything about the wine than the fact that the back label states that the wine is made from semi-dried grapes.

Although wine has been made in the region since Thracian times, the Zagreus winery only made its appearance on the scene recently. It's first sales were only date from 2007 but the winery is setting up its corporate structure so that it can try to expand the national wine scene on an international scale. A trade article I ran across reports that Zagreus has already ventured into foreign markets such as Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Slovakia, Japan, the UK, China and Canada and that it has committed to a "persistent exploration of the traditional Bulgarian Mavrud variety and its possibilities."

I didn't come across a whole lot of writing about the Mavrud grape - even the entry in Jancis Robinson (et al)'s Wine Grapes was rather limited. It is the oldest indigenous variety of grape found in Bulgaria but it doesn't appear that the grape is grown anywhere except in Bulgaria and, even at that, it is now largely blended with more international grapes like Cab Sauv or Merlot. Part of that limited production is likely related to the fact that Mavrud can be a difficult grape to work with as it is late to ripen and the vines can suffer from cold winters.

The winery, however, has introduced six varietal wines all made from the red Mavrud grape: a white wine, a rosé, three 100% varietal wines made in different ways and the wine I ran into. Vinica is also made from 100% Mavrud.  I find that interesting on its own - especially since I get to add #188 to my Wine Century Club tally - but, on top of that, the wine is made in an Amarone style and I do love my Amarone.

In the Amarone tradition, the grapes are dried outdoors for two to three months on racks before fermentation in order to allow about a third of the the grape's weight to evaporate, thereby concentrating the flavours and softening the sugars. The wine is then aged in new Bulgarian oak.

Boo and I rather enjoyed it. I found it to be more substantial than a Ripasso-styled wine but the $25 price tag was certainly more in line with a Ripasso than with its big brother Amarone.

It was also surprising to me that finding information on the winery - while not extensive - was relatively easy. Indeed, an article by none other than Jancis Robinson was a great little introduction to Zagreus in itself.

One of the interesting tidbits I read stated that the name comes from Greek mythology and the fact that Zagreus was identified with Dionysus or Bacchus, the god of wine. Apparently, there is a cave, found near to the winery, that was dedicated to the wine god. The naming of the winery was a tip of the hat to that part of winemaking history in the region.

I figure any connection to Dionysus or Bacchus is a gimme if you're talking "wild & wacky wine" as well. It doesn't get much wilder or wackier than a full out Bacchanal (not that I'd know from direct experience).

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Teroldego - Grape? Region? Huh?

After a brief visit Down Under, it's time to return to our Wild & Wacky Wine Week. This time around I'm going for a varietal wine out of the Italian Alps.

1915.  2006 Mezzacorona Teroldego Rotaliano Riserva (Teroldego Rotaliano DOC - Italy)

I do admit that I get a kick out of running across a label in a wine shop when I have no idea if the label is talking about a grape, a region, a proprietary brand name or something else altogether. Sometimes the label provides a bit of elucidation but that wasn't the case here. I thought that this might be a blend of Rotaliano and Teroldego - two grapes that I couldn't recall having run across before. Luckily, the cell phone and Mr. Google came to the rescue.

A quick search revealed that my guess was at least partially correct - Teroldego is an Italian grape, grown primarily in north-east Italy in the Trentino region. I later learned that Teroldego Rotaliano is the one DOC or approved appellation where the grape is approved for varietal Teroldego wines.

Although Teroldego is not grown in great quantities around the world, it has been around for centuries with written references to it dating back to the 15th Century. There are apparently small plantings of the grape in California, Australia, Brazil (of all places) and I know of one Okanagan producer who has just started producing some Teroldego as well.

Mezzacorona's website states that the grape is indigenous to Trentino and that this Riserva is only made in "remarkable vintages." For a regional, cooperative producer and a little known variety, the winery babies this Riserva with controlled temperature fermentation and two years of aging with twelve months of that time being spent in French oak. Indeed, the Canadian wine site, Wine Align, says that Mezzacorona's Riserva is an ideal wine to introduce one's self to the "charms of Teroldego" (although, they did say it en français).

While looking up the grape in my much loved, Wine Grapes (Jancis Robinson et al's tome on the subject), there was some totally wine-geeky notes on Teroldego's parentage - which is all up in the air because the grape's parents are now thought to be extinct. Genetic testing, however, has linked Teroldego to Syrah with the most viable hypothesis seeing the former being an uncle or aunt to the latter. I know, that's definitely geeky (but obviously interesting if you've read this far).

As for the wine itself, Boo and I found it to be big enough to live up to grilled steak, with enough earthiness to keep him happy and a good dose of fruit for my palate. I think Wine Align got it right. It was a nice introduction to a new grape - and I get to add it as #187 to my Wine Century Club tally. I'm liking that.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Solo Haan Wine

Having recently added seven new grape varieties to my Wine Century Club tally, Boo and I decided to take a slight detour from our Wild & Wacky Wine Week. It might seem a little tame - compared to Grechetto, Manto Negro and Plavac Mali - but a good Aussie red will always be a worthwhile endeavour to me.

1914.  2004  Haan - Wilhemus (Barossa Valley - Australia) 

I grabbed this Aussie take on a Bordeaux blend when some Aussie lamb pie was destined for our dinner plates. Most of the Aussie reds in the cellar involve Shiraz. So, there was a teensy bit of wild & wacky in this choice after all. Haan is not a producer that I recognize as normally being available in the Vancouver market. If memory serves, I picked this up when the winery attended the Vancouver International Wine Festival some years back. Seeing as how it's an '04, that would have been some years ago.

I'm not sure if the winery is still around as links to the winery's website don't appear to be up and running as I write this. I found one link that, for some reason, connected Haan to the Chateau Tanunda site. So, maybe the Haan winery and/or label was purchased by the Tanunda group and their grand assortment of wines.

The wine blends in all five of the "classic quintet" of red Bordeaux grapes and the back label breaks the wine down as Cab Sauv (35%), Merlot (27%), Cab Franc (23%), Petit Verdot (9%) and Malbec 6%). I guess it won't matter much whether we loved or hated the wine though because it wouldn't appear that we'll be finding any more.

For the record though, we found it to be an interesting departure from many of the big, fruit forward Barossa Shiraz wines that would have been coming out of Australia back in '04. There was still plenty of heft to the wine but some of that weight came from the new oak as opposed to simple fruit extraction.

As such, this may be the only (or solo) Haan wine we'll ever open (pardon the pun), but we definitely wouldn't turn another bottle - whether or not there was going to be lamb on the dinner table.